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Broad Street’s Iconic 150-Year-Old Masonic Temple Is Not ‘A Secret, Forbidden Place’

The Masonic Temple, an iconic structure on Broad Street in Philadelphia, is celebrating its 150th anniversary. The Freemasons, who constructed the temple as their Pennsylvania headquarters, employed hundreds of artisans and used 16,000 blocks of New England granite in its construction. Despite being overshadowed by the City Hall building across the street, the Masonic Temple remains an impressive structure.

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Key Takeaways

  • The Masonic Temple in Philadelphia is celebrating its 150th anniversary.
  • The temple is a significant landmark in the city and the world of Freemasonry.
  • Freemasonry faces contemporary challenges, but younger men are joining in substantial numbers.
  • The temple has a connection with the Prince Hall Masonic organization, founded by a group of 14 free Black men in 1787.
  • The temple will offer free guided tours and a public rededication ceremony to celebrate the anniversary.

A Monument to Freemasonry

The Masonic Temple, designed by architect James Hamilton Windrim, is a testament to Masonic culture and history. It was built to inspire and express the Freemasons’ commitment to charity and community service. The temple, which cost $1.6 million (equivalent to about $40 million today), houses seven large meeting halls, each with a unique theme such as Egyptian, Renaissance, and Gothic. These spaces are used for Masonic gatherings and are also open to the public.

A Living Historical Site

The Masonic Temple is not just a historical monument; it’s a living, breathing entity. It serves as a meeting hall, an event venue, and an educational facility housing books, artifacts, documents, and artwork. The temple, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, attracts about 11,000 visitors annually and hosts about 125 weddings, corporate gatherings, and other non-Masonic events each year.

Freemasonry: A Storied History and Contemporary Challenges

Freemasonry, often described as the oldest known fraternal organization in the Western world, has a rich history and faces contemporary challenges. Despite misconceptions and suspicions about the organization, Freemasonry has been anchored in mainstream society, thanks in part to its connection with the Shriners organization, its children’s hospital network, and its many famous members.

The Future of Freemasonry

Despite a decline in membership in recent decades, Freemasonry is attracting younger members in substantial numbers. The organization is focusing on telling its story and demonstrating how members help each other and the community. The Masonic Temple, as the physical embodiment of this story, is an essential part of this effort.

Celebrating the Anniversary

To celebrate the 150th anniversary, the Masonic Temple will offer free guided tours and a rededication ceremony. The Temple is also part of the Wawa Welcome America Festival, with free guided tours available all day.

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